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Lessons in Chemistry

--Staff Picks

Lessons in Chemistry

Bonnie Garmus
Published: 2022
Age Range: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Awards: GoodReads Choice Award for Debut Novel, Barnes & Noble Book of the Year

“Set in 1960s California, this blockbuster debut is the hilarious, idiosyncratic and uplifting story of a female scientist whose career is constantly derailed by the idea that a woman’s place is in the home, only to find herself starring as the host of America’s most beloved TV cooking show.”

Elizabeth Zott is first and foremost a chemist, and god help those who tell her otherwise. Zott is brilliant, but because she’s a woman (and pretty much the only woman not in a secretarial role at her lab) she’s never taken seriously, belittled, sexually assaulted, and the men have the audacity to steal and take credit for her work because they know it’s leaps and bounds above theirs. Then she meets Calvin Evans, the star chemist of Hastings Lab, and he actually treats her as an equal. They fall deeply in love. Unfortunate circumstances finds Elizabeth unwed and with child (for which she is unceremoniously fired). After a few years of freelance work, Elizabeth is offered to host an afternoon cooking show. She agrees, but will do it according to her terms, much to the detriment of the male producers. She uses this opportunity to teach women science and believe in their self worth. The show is a hit.

I really enjoyed this book. Elizabeth is a no-nonsense woman who tells it like it is. She’s empowering. The secondary characters, especially the daughter, were equally great. I also loved how the story is told and unraveled – you know from the very beginning that Elizabeth is a single mother, so then you get to see how that came to be. I recommend this to readers that love historical fiction and strong female leads.

Soon to be an Apple TV+ series starring Brie Larson in the titular role.